Congress Coaxes States to Collect DNA

Federal lawmakers are using the purse strings to coax more states into adopting rules that require suspects who are arrested for various crimes — but not charged — to submit to DNA sampling for inclusion into a nationwide database.

It doesn’t matter if the suspect was charged or even acquitted.

Sponsored by Harry Teague (D-New Mexico), the measure provides $75 million to the nation’s financially broken states — all in a bid to coax the 11 states with such DNA-testing laws to keep them on the books, and to entice others to follow suit. The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary received the package Wednesday, a day after the House passed the bill on a 357 to 32 vote.

All Democrats voting approved the bill, CNET’s Declan McCullagh points out. And it’s likely to sail through the Senate. President Barack Obama, who supports DNA collection upon arrest, is expected to sign it.

The House’s passage of the so-called “Katie’s Law,” or HR 4614, comes as the states and federal government are slashing budgets in response to record-setting financial shortfalls.

Continue reading

Child rape charge rocks TSA

A Transportation Security Administration worker who pats down members of the flying public was charged with multiple child sex crimes targeting an underage girl yesterday.

The bust outraged privacy and passenger advocates who say it justifies their fears about Logan International Airport’s full-body scanner.

“It’s a huge, huge issue,” said Kate Hinni of FlyersrRights.org. “The TSA needs a complete overhaul . . . If you have a pedophile looking at those naked pictures, they’ve got all your information, it’s a gross violation of their authority. . . . They should make sure none of them is corrupted in any deviant sexual manner.”

Sean Shanahan, 44, of Winthrop was held on $50,000 bail after he was charged with two counts of statutory rape, two counts of enticing a minor and one count of indecent assault and battery. He was arrested yesterday at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he had checked himself in after a suicide threat, prosecutors said.

Continue reading

Nebraska State Penitentiary Guards suspended over Facebook posting

Update: LINCOLN — Three Nebraska prison guards have been suspended after one allegedly posted Facebook comments expressing enjoyment at roughing up an inmate, and the others supported his actions. State prison officials said the three were suspended pending an investigation.

LINCOLN — A man who identified himself as a Nebraska State Penitentiary guard posted a Facebook comment this month expressing glee at roughing up a inmate.

“When you work in a prison a good day is getting to smash an inmates face into the ground. … for me today was a VERY good day,” stated the Web posting on the Facebook social networking site page of Caleb Bartels.

Two other men identified in state records as prison guards, Shawn Paulson and Derek Dickey, posted responses that appeared supportive, including this one from Dickey: “very satisfying isnt it!!!”

Now all three find themselves in hot water, with former State Sen. Ernest (Ernie) W. Chambers calling for their dismissal.

In a letter this week to Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, Chambers wrote that such “reprehensible misconduct” discussed so brazenly makes the three unfit to serve.

“Given the nature of their work and the power they exercise over inmates, they have shown themselves to lack fitness to hold employment,” Chambers wrote.

Continue reading

Police escort student out of class after refusal to recite Pledge of Allegiance

A middle school teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland, will have to apologize to a 13-year-old student after yelling at her and having her escorted out of class by school police when the student refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, a 13-year-old female student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance on Jan. 27. The teacher reportedly ordered the girl out into the hallway, where he threatened the girl with detention and then sent her to the school counselor’s office.

The next day, when the student again refused to stand for the pledge, the teacher called school officers to remove her from the classroom and take her to the counselor’s office once again.

Continue reading

ACLU sues USAID for FOIA violations over abstinence-only programs

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for failing to provide documents regarding its overseas religiously-influenced abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. In July and September 2009, the ACLU sent USAID requests for the programs funded through HIV/AIDs grants, including requests for proposals, contracts with USAID, curricula used by grantees, communications between USAID and the White House, and communications between USAID and its grantees about religious instruction in the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

A recent Inspector General’s report says the programs unconstitutionally promote religiously infused materials and messages.

For more information, click here.

Lawsuit: NYPD routinely arrests students for non-crimes

ACLU: Racial element present in creation of ‘school-to-prison pipeline’

A lawsuit filed Wednesday by five students in the New York City school system against the New York City Police Department paints a picture of school officers who routinely abuse students and arrest them for non-criminal activities.

The lawsuit (PDF), brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of five students aged 13 to 18, says that school safety officers “have a long-standing pattern of abuse, unlawful arrests and excessive force against minority students who commit even minor infractions like talking back, being late for class or having a cell phone in school,” Courthouse News reports.

“Aggressive policing is stripping thousands of New York City students of their dignity and disrupting their ability to learn,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU said in a statement. “Despite mounting evidence of systemic misconduct by police personnel in the schools, the NYPD refuses to even acknowledge any problems with its school policing practices. We are confident that the courts will compel much-needed reform.”

One of the plaintiffs in the suit was 11 years old when she says she was “handcuffed and perp-walked into a police precinct for doing nothing more than doodling on a desk in erasable ink,” a lawyer for the students said.

Continue reading

Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail

Silence has long shrouded the men and women who die in the nation’s immigration jails. For years, they went uncounted and unnamed in the public record. Even in 2008, when The New York Times obtained and published a federal government list of such deaths, few facts were available about who these people were and how they died.

But behind the scenes, it is now clear, the deaths had already generated thousands of pages of government documents, including scathing investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that show officials working to stymie outside inquiry.

The documents, obtained over recent months by The Times and the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act, concern most of the 107 deaths in detention counted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2003, after the agency was created within the Department of Homeland Security.

The Obama administration has vowed to overhaul immigration detention, a haphazard network of privately run jails, federal centers and county cells where the government holds noncitizens while it tries to deport them.

But as the administration moves to increase oversight within the agency, the documents show how officials — some still in key positions — used their role as overseers to cover up evidence of mistreatment, deflect scrutiny by the news media or prepare exculpatory public statements after gathering facts that pointed to substandard care or abuse.

Continue reading